Leaving your marriage is one of the hardest decisions you will make in life. You have invested a lot in this relationship, and worked hard to save it, but you realize your conflicts are irreconcilable and you need to leave. There is no optimal way to depart, but there are ways to lessen the pain and anger involved in this difficult situation. Here are some tips to help get you through this life passage.
Before you start divorce proceedings, ask yourself these questions:
1. Am I ready to build a meaningful life as a single person, even if I never marry again?
2. If you are having an affair, is your decision to end your marriage part of that, or would you end your marriage even if you had not met someone else?
3. Are your daily thoughts occupied by getting out of the marriage, and do you spend a lot of time fantasizing about how much better your life will be without your spouse?
4. Do you envy other couples’ relationships, and feel bad when comparing them to your own?
5. Do you threaten to leave the marriage when you argue?
6. Have you tried to go to couples counseling more than three times without finding help for
7. Are you ready to leave and do you have a future plan already mapped out?
Make a decision to leave with consciousness, integrity, and respect
This means that your departure should be preceded by honest discussions with your spouse. Do not make this life-impacting decision unilaterally, even if your spouse does not agree with how you view the marriage. There are two of you in the relationship and you owe it to the relationship to bring the other person into this conversation. Do not just walk out, leaving a note on the table. Preserve your integrity and respect your spouse by having an adult conversation (several, in fact) about why this appears to be the only viable path to follow now. Ending your marriage well will be better for any future relationships you will have, and be better for any children involved.
Be clear with your intentions
Make sure that your partner understands that your decision is made and there is no chance of working things out. If you waffle during your discussion, your partner may sense an opening and try and manipulate you to stay. Practice your departure speech, if necessary, so that you send the message that this is what you feel you need to do.
Set boundaries with future communication
Even though you are leaving your marriage, you and your spouse will have many conversations as you unravel the relationship. It’s best to set the boundaries of what your communications will look like. Can you two still talk civilly? If not, perhaps a text or email will be the way you will communicate, at least in the early days. Try to keep a “light and polite” relationship, refrain from having personal discussions where sharing feelings may trigger arguments.
Do apologize for this decision
Tell your spouse you are sorry for hurting them, leading them on, or getting them into this mess in the first place. Validate that you did have some great times, but you are now on different paths.
Try to relate to how they are feeling, and take responsibility for your part in the marriage ending in this way. “I understand how you must be feeling, and I’m sorry I’m responsible for this hurt.”
Express gratitude for the time you had with your spouse
If you feel this is true, thank them for all that they have shared with you. Appreciate what you have received from the relationship. Don’t let a divorce take over all the good times you shared together. There were many good parts along the way.
Establish your priorities
If you have children, they should be your priority in this divorce. Your partner should be on the same page with this.
You have been thinking about leaving for a long time, but your partner is just learning about this and needs some time to process this. Let them have their feelings; you may have already had these same emotions and gotten past them and even healed long ago. Do not say “You need to get over this,” when your partner revisits issues even a year down the line. Their timeline is not the same as yours.
Make sure you have a safe place to go
Leaving a marriage involves a lot of future planning, and first on your list should be setting up a place to go to. It should be a safe place, ideally somewhere where you have access to support as you transition. If your parents are people with whom you feel you could safely stay, perhaps their home could be a temporary shelter for you. Maybe you have a friend with an extra bedroom you could rent out for a while you formulate your game plan. Or perhaps your financial situation is such that you can rent your own place. In any case, plan for this. Do not just storm out of the house, shouting “It’s over!” You’ll find yourself with a couple of suitcases on the sidewalk and nowhere to go.
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